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Lock's Quest

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Digital Continue, LLC
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Tower Defense/ Action/ Classic/Retro

Graphics & Sound:

It feels like nostalgia for phone booths and video rental stores to say this, but we played and reviewed Lockís Quest all the way back in the last millennia... okay the last decade, in those tumultuous days of 2008. We in the US were in the throes of a massive financial meltdown, losing jobs and home equity, and desperate for anything to cheer us up. Ironically, the story is about a boy literally trying to prevent his world from falling apart. Games have served us well as escapist vehicles, so it stands to reason that Lockís Quest landed at a particularly good time. This remake brings a fresh face to the original and gives us a chance to once again escape the distractions of the outside world and its woes.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, Lockís Quest on Xbox One is better in every way, but still true to the original, almost to the point of emulation. No, youíre not playing on a tiny screen. This one will eat all the real estate of your widescreen TV, but for what purpose? The action takes place in a relatively small space, so all that extra room is largely unnecessary. The redone graphics are much easier on the eyes, and the music treatment takes what would sound impossibly retro and makes it palatable for your nice surround-sound system or fancy soundbar. It says a lot about the current game industry that Lockís Quest remade could pass as a completely new game with that throwback flair, which may be how most younger gamers experience it. 8- and 16-bit will never die, but if it sounds great in your woofers and shows nicely on your flatscreen, all the better.


Gameplay:

The idea of a "tower defense hybrid" is not uncommon these days, but Lockís Quest didnít have too many predecessors at the time it first appeared on the Nintendo DS. The story takes you on a grand adventure, in the persona of a young boy who can build and repair walls and defenses, and who can also stand his ground in a fight. This is the friend you need when the world is being overrun. Lock is waking up to his potential, and doesnít have the full use of his power at first, so youíre limited to building a small number of active defenses and walls. This grows over time and youíll also face off against a new variety and larger number of enemies. Also, youíll find bosses appear occasionally to test your skills. The "big idea," compared to traditional tower defense games, is that Lock can run among the enemies and fight them, under your control, of course.

No self-respecting update would be complete without some new offering, and Lockís Quest has that covered, in the form of an endless mode called Antonia Defense. This is a nice break to the steady pacing of the story, which will take you quite some time to unlock. The building mechanic has been translated nicely to the larger console, and the story development definitely helps Lockís Quest stand out even now in its genre. If youíre craving a dose of old-school RPG storytelling in a tower defense genre, it doesnít get much better than this. That said, how you feel about the fighting portion will depend on your appetite for action. Itís not that bullet-hell level reflexes are required, but thereís no scenario where you win solely on your planned defenses, which may irk some players. In the time since this first launched, games like Dungeon Defenders and Sanctum have built a strong following, so weíre betting that same audience will see the value in exploring the roots of the genre.


Difficulty:

The bid for nostalgia means that youíll find Lockís Quest a bit more challenging and more binary than the newer crop of similar titles. But letís face it, this whole genre is pretty unforgiving. When you lose, it always feels like crushing defeat, never like you lost by inches. Add to the mix that youíre running around in a horde of enemies with relatively meager fighting skills, which becomes another way to lose the farm. Youíre always tasked with protecting isolated zones in a large grid, but are free to build up anywhere on the map that suits your strategy. The ability to repair what youíve built is a nice touch, but also has a twitchy component because you canít repair and fight at the same time.

Enemies are scattered at first and relatively dumb, but later in the game, youíll face off against bigger groups and bosses. If your building and fighting skills arenít honed by this time, youíre going to go down hard, and youíll commonly find yourself replaying levels. Thereís a steady progression of items youíll unlock to fight enemies, all of them lethal, but also optimized for certain enemies. Understanding the type of fight youíll be in and timing your attacks and repairs is the key to success, and it can definitely become a bit frantic. The price for Lockís Quest being a hybrid is that both the installed defenses and your fighting abilities are watered down.


Game Mechanics:

With hindsight being 20/20, we can say that the DS control scheme was a superior option for planning and building defenses, but the Xbox One is much preferred for the action / fighting sequences. The isometric view of the landscape seems like it would be great for building, but even with the ability to rotate the world, placement of towers can be somewhat confusing. The mechanics are simple enough, but involve a lot of nudging between the buttons and analog sticks to find the right combination. Worth mentioning is that youíre doing all this under a time constraint, so it isnít like you can just piddle around endlessly looking for that perfect combination. You have limited funds earned from battle, or awarded at the beginning of each multi-round level, so in most cases, youíll run out of those before time expires.

Running around fighting enemies is intuitive, but you never feel overpowered. A few button combos for attacking is all youíll need, and really all you have. Another single button is as complex as repairs get, so itís all about timing rather than complicated controls. Finding the balance between building smart defenses you then maintain through a combination of repair and close-quarters attack is the key to success here. Itís true that the genre has opened up since Lockís Quest first appeared in 2008, which makes this either a game you buy as a diehard fan of tower defense games, or as a fan of retro titles, in general. And of course, thereís fan service for those who played and loved the original, not least because itís now appearing on a totally new platform. Some of the original impact of Lockís Quest is lost in the more crowded space it now occupies - both in terms of the genre and the platform - but the last decade has only slightly put a dent in its appeal.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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